This Has To Be Coldest Workout Cooldown Imaginable — Is It Worth It?

Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Have you ever come to the end of a really satisfying, challenging workout and thought to yourself, what other physical trials can I put my body through today? Neither have we, but we're pretty sure supporters of post-workout ice baths ask themselves that question regularly. Sure, you look pretty tough when you're plunging yourself into a tub of freezing-cold water. But what do ice baths actually do, and are they worth it?

Related: Too Sore To Exercise? The Active Recovery Workout

Our friends at Shape reported on a study recently published in The Journal of Physiology that found that ice baths, a.k.a. "cold-water immersion," could actually inhibit muscle growth over time. These effects were only minimal; the people who underwent cold-water immersion still experienced some muscle growth, just not as much as those who went without a chilly dip. Of course, other factors (like nutrition and sleep) weren't controlled in this study, so maybe the baths weren't the only culprit.

To make it even more complicated, Shape cites another study that found the opposite to be true. The American Journal of Physiology reported last month that cold water can jump-start the production of mitochondria in muscle cells, which go on to strengthen your muscles overall.

Related: 8 Stretches That Make You Stronger

Here's the thing about these conflicting studies: Most athletes aren't hopping into a bath of ice in order to boost their muscle growth. They're doing it to avoid soreness and reduce recovery time after high-intensity workouts. In these cases, doctors recommend soaking in water as cold as 50 degrees for eight to 10 minutes. If reading that doesn't make you want to put on an additional layer right now, ice baths could be just the thing for you.

Click through to Shape for more info on how to dodge soreness in the most hardcore way possible. (Shape)

Related: 6 Surprising Reasons Your Workout Feels Harder
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